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Are Your In-Market Audiences Really Active Shoppers or Are You Getting Taken for a Ride?

Advertising has always been full of buzz words. Sometimes they are important. Sometimes they’re misleading. Sometimes they’re misused just because a media rep or advertising vendor wants to say something that sounds trendy and important.

There’s a relative new term that’s been introduced with the advent of the data marketing revolution. The term is “in-market.” And it’s all three of the above.

For automotive marketers, “in-market” should mean that their advertising is reaching people who are ACTIVELY in the process of shopping for a vehicle. The idea is that if the objective is to sell automobiles, it’s more important to talk to a person who wants to buy an automobile than to someone who just purchased or doesn’t intend to for quite some time.

Media reps and advertising vendors may emphasize that their strategies are aimed directly at consumers identified as “in-market.” That’s well and good, so long as they can tell you exactly what they mean. “In-market” can have a variety of definitions. For many vendors, “in-market” doesn’t always mean “actively shopping”.

So how do you tell if your media is reaching actively shopping, in-market car buyers or if a vendor is pulling one over on you?

For some vendors, “in-market” may mean that based on a demographic profile targeted, your advertising might reach someone shopping for a car. A small percentage of audience members might be actively shopping but the large majority of the demographic profile targeted won’t be.

Or, for other vendors, “in-market” may mean that based on predictive data like vehicle equity and lease expirations someone should be coming into market. However, the phrases “should be” and “definitely is” are two entirely different things.

Then, there’s vendors where “in-market” may mean they utilize anonymous 3rd party offline or online data to target audience members that display characteristics that they may be thinking about buying a car. It has the potential to be highly accurate but it’s often back-filled with useless audience information to bolster numbers for overall reach.

The problem with all of them is their identification strategies aren’t necessarily a true indicator of someone actively shopping for a new vehicle. At best, they are all educated ways to blindly throw darts at a small target on a very large wall. Each is just slightly more accurate than the precursors.

To really get to the heart of reaching active, in-market shoppers – automotive marketers have to get beyond the sales pitch and find out exactly what “in-market” means, and how each of their vendors proves it. To truly locate and target active in-market shoppers, it’s all about extremely accurate data that’s based on real-time activity. And, most marketing vendors don’t have access to it.

Below are four basic questions anyone can ask to get to the truth. A media vendor’s ability to answer them specifically, without a lot of rambling, will tell you whether “in-market” actually means real shoppers that turn into eventual customers or if they’re just utilizing a buzzword to keep up with trends.

Question 1: Where do you get your audience data? The idea is that if they can’t tell you their sources how are you supposed to know if they’re speaking the truth.

Question 2: How current is your data? The speed at which active car shoppers move can vary greatly between awareness, familiarity, consideration, and purchase. Data that’s more than a few days old can mean that it’s too old to utilize and produce effective results.

Question 3: How accountable do you hold your data providers? If a vendor doesn’t own the data they use then they have to be purchasing it from someone else. If they are, how do they hold their vendors accountable for good data that produces results.

Question 4: How do you measure performance for the data utilized? If the right data is being used then it should and can be measured. Any marketing vendor who says they use data to reach car shoppers should be able to tell you exactly what their data and strategies are producing towards the goals you’ve set.

Data-driven marketing has, in some ways, taken the already vague world of advertising and made it even less distinct. There are dozens of ways of reaching prospects, and they are at least that many levels of accuracy. The key to making sure that the marketing dollars spent provide the greatest return is in making sure audiences reached are the right ones and then choosing the most productive media. Then, it must be insisted that performance is based on real-world measurement—sales rather than audience. And now, because of the active in-market shopper data that’s available to everyone, it’s something every dealership should and can do.